Tepco fails to block Fukushima crack

Financial Times: Lindsay Whipp - April 3, 2011

Tokyo Electric Power is struggling to block a crack discovered in a pit that is leaking highly radioactive water into the ocean at its Fukushima Daiichi plant, and said it had discovered the bodies of its two missing employees at the stricken plant.

Staff discovered the 20 centimetre-wide crack in a shaft storing supply cables close to reactor No 2. Tepco is making preparations to inject a type of polymer into the pit in its latest effort to block the leaking water, after Saturday’s attempts to plug the crack with concrete failed.

It is the first time that the company has discovered a source of radiation leakage, amid signs it was continuously seeping into the sea. High levels of radiation inside and outside the building were detected at the reactor No 2 in the past week.

The leaking shaft contains water with a radiation dose of over 1,000 millisieverts per hour, Tepco said. Exposure to 1,000 millisieverts in one dose can cause acute radiation sickness, while cumulative exposure to the same amount is believed can eventually to cause a fatal cancer in 5 per cent of cases.

It is not clear that success in blocking this crack will put a stop to the radiation and Tepco said it continues to search for further sources of leakage at the plant.

Tepco has also found the bodies of its two young employees who went missing after the magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11. Their bodies were found in the basement of the Daiichi plant’s No 4 reactor turbine building. They died of haemorrhage shock, Tepco said.

Over the weekend, Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan, visited the tsunami ravaged town of Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture. It was his first visit to the tsunami ravaged area outside Fukushima since the March 11 disaster.

As Tepco continues to struggle to contain the crisis at the plant, there is heated debate over the future of the company. Mr Kan dismissed speculation on Friday that his government plans to nationalise the utility, saying it should continue to act as a private business for now.

However, he did say that Tepco might need state help to meet the various compensation obligations likely to result from the radiation leaks at the plant.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the coastline of northeastern Japan and triggered the nuclear crisis at the Daiichi plant has left more than 27,000 dead or missing, according to NHK.